Elections are a perennial affair in India, an enormous exercise in terms of money, time and energy expended. The frequent imposition of the model code of conduct cripples governance and impedes development. In view of this virtually interminable dance of democracy, it makes sense to club the elections to the Lok Sabha, state Assemblies and local bodies. The parliamentary standing committee on law and justice has stated that holding simultaneous polls will reduce the burden on the exchequer as well as the expenditure of political parties and ensure that human resources are utilised optimally, besides rekindling voters’ interest in the electoral process. All that sounds good, but giving shape to ‘one nation, one election’ is a tall order. It requires developing consensus among various stakeholders and bringing about requisite amendments to the law.
The BJP-led NDA government strongly favours simultaneous elections, having registered resounding wins in successive parliamentary polls, but the fragmented Opposition is not so enthusiastic about it. The collapse of the governments in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Puducherry in the past year and a half underlines how difficult it would be to synchronise Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections. It was the dissolution of some Legislative Assemblies in the late 1960s and the Lok Sabha in 1970 that had ended the post-Independence practice of conducting simultaneous polls. Any move to curtail or extend the tenure of some Legislative Assemblies has to be well thought-out in the face of constitutional hurdles. In the short run, the focus should be on reducing the frequency of elections. In its report tabled in the Lok Sabha in December 2015, the parliamentary standing committee on law and justice had said that holding polls on fewer occasions would provide relief to the people as well as the government machinery.
The current parliamentary panel has also made a pitch for common electoral rolls. This is an implementable idea that can curb irregularities and minimise duplication in voters’ lists. No political party should have an objection to such a reform. It’s here that a start can be made right away.